William Combe.

The history of Johnny Quæ Genus, the little foundling of the late Doctor Syntax online

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What various views of our uncertain Stale
These playful, unassuming Klivmes relate !


QUiK 032111178 OB. Ms JOUKJfET to L,OWDH













npHIS Issue is founded on the Edition
published by R. Ackerninnn in the
year 1822




'~r*HE Favour which has been bestowed on the
different Tours of Doctor Syntax, has
encouraged the Writer of them to give a History
OF the Foundling, who has been thought an
interesting Object in the latter of those Volumes ;
and it is written in the same style and manner,
with a view to connect it with them.

This Child of Chance, it is presumed, is led
through a track, of Life not unsuited to the pecu-
liarity of his Condition and Character, while its
varieties, as in the former Works, are represented
by the Pencil of Ma. Rowlandson with its
accustomed characteristic Felicity.

The Idea of an English Gil Blas predominated
through the whole of this Volume ; which must be


considorrii as fDrtimatc in no common degree, if its
readers, in the course of their perusal, should he
disposed to acknowledge even a remote Similitude
to the incomparable Work of Le Sage.



'"pHIS prolonged work is, at length, brought to
a close. — It has grown to this size, under
rare and continuing marks of public favour ; while
the same mode of Composition has been employed
in the last, as in the former Volumes. They are
all equally indebted to Mr. Rowlandson's talents.

It may, perhaps, be considered as presumption
in me, and at my age, to sport even with my own
Dowdy Muse, but, from the extensive patronage
which Doctor Syntax has received, it may be
presumed that, more or less, he has continued to
amuse : And I, surely, have no reason to be dis-
satisfied, when Time points at my eightieth Year,
that I can still afford some pleasure to those who
are disposed to be pleased.


Mai/ I, I 82 1.


Journey to Londun ....
In si-arcli of .Service ....
Relating his History to Sir Jetfery .

At Oxford

Conflict with Lawyer Oripeall

With the Sheep-Shearers .

Assisting a Traveller

In the Sports of the Kitchen

In the Service of Sir JefTery Gourmand

With a Quack Doctor

With a Spendthrift ....

Attending on a Sporting Finale

In the Service of a Miser .

With the Money Lenders

Officiating at a Gaming Table .

With a Portrait Painter .

Gives a Grand Party

Interrupts a Tete a Tete .

Committed with a riotous Dancing Party

to the Watch-House .
Engaged with Jovial Friends, or who

sings best .....
The Party breaking up and Qvx Genu

breaking down ....
Turned out of a House which he mistakes

for his own ....
With Creditors ....

Discovers his Father

To face the Title

To face f>. I 3





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M 150

,, i6z

" 174

'. 179

,, 180

., 188

,. zoi

!! 203

,, 212
,, 214

,, 220

,, 222
,, 229
,, 248





ZH Sounbfing of ©ocfor ^gnfar


JOHNNY QUM GENUS ! what a name
To offer to the voice of Fame !
(Though she 'tis hop'd may condescend
To act as Little Johnny's friend)
This may be said, when first the eye
Does, by a careless glance, descry
The striking range of marshall'd words
Which a gay Title-Page affords.
But what's a name, as Shakespeare says,
It neither gives nor lessens praise ;
Adds no fresh odour to the rose,
Nor any other flower that blows :
Whether with rare or common name
The fragrance will be just the same.
'Tis not a title can confer
The good or ill of character,
HoivARDs have been both beat and bang'd.
And some with ancient names been hang'd :

Tin-: iiisroRV ok

Look at a ship with convicts stor'd

What noble nanus an- oft on board !

It is the living, current course

Or of the betier or the worse,

That stamps, whate'cr may be the name.

Or with a good or evil fame.

But howsoe'er the thing we view

Our little Johnny's title's new :

Or tor the child or tor the man,

In an old phrase, 'tis spick and span.

Besides, as most folk do agree
To find a charm in novelty,
'Tis the first time that Grammar rule
Which makes boys tremble when at school,
Did with the name an union crave
Which at the font a sj)onsor gave.
But whether 'twas in hum'rous mood
Or by some classic whim pursued.
Or as, in Eton's Grammar known,
It bore relation to his own,
Syntax, it was at Whitsuntide,
And a short time before he died.
In pleasant humour, after dinner,
Surnam'd, in wine, the little sinner.
And thus, amid the table's roar, 1

Gave him from good, old Lilly's store,
A name which none e'er had before. J

— 'Squire Worthy, who, perchance was there,
Promis'd the Doctor's wish to share,
That want, at least might not annoy
The progress of the Foundling Boy.
" — Syntax," He said, " We'll try between us
To make the fortune of Qu^ Genus :
You feed his mind with learning's food,
And I'll protect him if he's good."


" While I," said smiling Dickey Bend,
" Will add my mite as Johnny^ s friend ;
Nor shall he want the scraps of knowledge
Which he can pick up at my College."
— Thus, as they did the bumper ply
To Johnny's future destiny,
The warm, almost parental heart
Of Mrs. Syntax bore its part ;
And her cheek wore a smile of joy
As she beheld th' unconscious boy,
Who, careless of the kind debate,
Play'd with the cherries on his plate.

But such is life's uncertain hour,
And such is fate's tyrannic power.
That while our comforts smile around
The fatal dart inflicts the wound :
Thus e'er another month was past
Syntax, alas ! had breath'd his last.
Whene'er he heard the widow sigh
QuiE Genus wept he scarce knew why :
Of a kind friend fate had bereft him,
And an odd name was all he left him.
His urchin fancy only thought
As his enquiring mind was taught,
That his adopted sire was gone
Where the good go to worlds unknown,
To happy regions plac'd on high
Above the blue and starry sky,
Where, he was with the hope endued,
That he should go, if he were good.

» But the good lady took him home
And kept him many a year to come ;
When he grew up a charming youth,
In whom simplicity and truth

4 TIIK llIsroRV OK

Dill o'ri his i-v'iv thought preside ;
While, with such ;m anxious guide,
I. iff sniil'd and sccm'd to promise fair,
That it wouKl answer to the care
\N'hich her affection had bestow'd.
To set him on his future road :
But when she died ])oor John was hurl'd
Into a bustling, tricking world.
He had, 'tis true, all she could leave ;
She gave him all there was to give ;
Of all she had she made him heir,
But left it to a lawyer's care :
No wonder then that he was cheated
And her fond anxious hopes defeated :
So that instead of his possessing
The fruits of her last, dying blessing ;
He had, as it turn'd out, to rue j
/ What foul rascality could do ; ,-
K And his own wild vagaries too. J

Here, gentle reader, here begins
The account of our young Hero's sins :
But all which thus far form'd his fate,
Qvjf. Genus will himself relate,
And what truth bids him to rehearse.
My hum-strum Muse records in verse.

Thus I proceed, — my humble strain

Has hap'ly pleas'd. 1 may be vain, — ■

But still it hopes to please again.

In this great overwhelming town.
Certain receptacles are known.
Where both the sexes shew their faces
To boast their talents and get places :
Not such as kings and courts can give.
Not such as noble folk receive.


But those which yield their useful aid

To common wants or gen'ral trade,

Or finely furbish out the show

That fashion does on life bestow.

Here those who want them may apply

For toiling powers and industry,

On whom the nervous strength's bestow'd

To urge the wheel or bear the load.

Here all who want, may pick and chuse

Each service of domestic use :

The laundry, kitchen, chamber, dairy.

May always find an Ann or Mary,

While in th' accommodating room.

He who wants coachman, footman, groom.

Or butler staid, may come and have,

With such as know to dress and shave.

— The art and skill may here be sought

In ev'ry thing that's sold and bought,

In all the well spread counter tells

Of knowledge keen in yards and ells ;

Adepts in selling and in buying

And perfect in the modes of lying ;

Who flatter misses in their teens.

And harangue over bombazeens,

Can, in glib words, nor fear detection.

Arrange each colour to complexion :

Can teach the beau the neckcloth's tie.

With most becoming gravity ;

Or with a consequential air.

Turn up the collar to a hair.

— Besides, your nice shop-women too,

May at a call be brought to view,

Who, with swift fingers, so bewitching,

Are skill'd in ev'ry kind of stitching ;

Can trim the hat, arrange the bonnet,

And place the tasty ribbon on it.


In short, here all to service bound,

May in their various sha|>es be found.

— From such who may display their charms,

By smirking looks and active arms.

To those in kitchen under ground

Amid black pots and kettles found :

From such as teach the early rules,

Or in the male or female schools.

To those of an inferior breed,

Who ne'er have known to write or read :

From those who do the laws perplex

In toil at an attorney's desk,

To such as pass their busy lives

In cleaning shoes or cleaning knives.

To these, perhaps, an added score 1

Might swell the tiresome list or more, .-

But here description says, "give o'er," j

In such enregistering shop
One morn a figure chanc'd to pop;
(But here I beg it may be guess'd.
Of these same shops it was the best,)
His hat was rather worse for wear, 1

His clothing, too, was somewhat bare,
His boots might say, " we've travell'd far." J
His left hand an umbrella bore
And something like a glove he wore :
Clean was his very sun-burnt skin
Without a long hair on his chin.
While his lank face, in ev'ry feature,
Proclaim'd a keen, discerning nature ;
And when he spoke there was an air ]

Of something not quite common there : .-
His manner good, his language fair. j

A double cape of curious make,
Fell from his shoulders down his back,


As if art did the folds provide
A very awkward hump to hide ;
But, if 'twere so, the cunning fail'd,
For still the treach'rous bunch prevail'd.

By chatting here and talking there,
He did his curious mind prepare
With all the means by which to gain
The end his wishes would obtain ; —
Then with half-humble, solemn face,
He sought the ruler of the place,
Who boasted an establish'd fame,
And Sharpsight was his well-known name.
But ere we in our way proceed
To tell of many a future deed.
It may, we doubt not, be as well.
To save all guess-work, just to tell,
Of the part now upon the stage
QUiE Genus was the personage.
Fortune's dark clouds, for some time past
That learned title had o'ercast.
And he had borrow'd names in plenty.
He might have gone by more than twenty ;
But now arriv'd in this great town
Without a fear of being known
He thought he might assume his own :
And he had weighty reasons too
For what he was about to do.
Which, we believe, a future page
Will reconcile as reasons sage.
At length his statement he began,
When thus the conversation ran.

Qu-t Genus.

"'Tis the first time I e'er applied
To ask your counsel for my guide :


liut stranj^c t-vcnts have brought me here,

And at your desk I now apj)ear.

But not without the means to pay,

For all you do and all you say.

And here, good Sir, there's no concealing

We must be cautious in our dealing :

I want employment that will give

Means to be honest and to live.

Such is my warm, heart-felt desire,

Such is the boon I now require, —

And if you do my wishes aid,

I tell you Sir, — you shall be r.uD."

Sticking his pen behind his ear
And with a keen enquiring leer,
Sharpsight the curious figure view'd.
And thus the important talk pursued.


" In answer to your just desire.
Permit me fairly to enquire,
Which to my ledger is transmitted,
For what your qualities are fitted ?
And, in good faith, I wish to know.
What you have done, and what can do ?
Nay, to whose word I may refer
For your good name and character.
Such is essential to the case,
Such are the first steps to a place.
Of whate'er kind that place may be,
Whether of high or low degree ;
Without them no access to station.
No character, no situation.
— What you assert, you say is true,
I'm sure, my friend, I wish so too :


For what you ask, as you describe,

Is ask'd by all the serving tribe :

'Tis that to which they all pretend,

But those I never can commend

In honour to my own good name, 1

And to this room's establish'd fame, V

But what the rigid truth may claim. j

Though as you look this place around.

But common folk are to be found :

Coachmen who sit without a whip ;

Footmen, without a call to skip ;

Gardeners who have lost their spade,

And Journeymen without a trade ;

Clerks whose pens have long been idle ;

With grooms quite dull, who ask a bridle ;

Cooks who exclaim for roast and boil'd.

And nurs'ry-maids without a child ;

Young, sprightly girls who long to clamber

From drawing-rooms to upper chamber,

Ready the drudg'ry to assail

Of scrubbing-brush, and mop and pail ;

Stout porters who for places tarry.

Whose shoulders ache for loads to carry ;

But character they must maintain.

Or here they come, and pay in vain.

In short, were I to count them o'er,

I could name twenty kinds or more.

Who patient and impatient wait

About this busy, crowded gate.

— But you might higher claimants see

Within this crowded registry.

Who do not at the desk appear.

Nor e'er are seen in person here ;

But they are charged a larger fee,

Both for success and secrecy.


Thus you must sec how much dc])cnds,
To gain your object and your ends,
That vou should truly let me know
What you have done, — what you can do ;
And I, once more, beg to refer
To your good name and character."

QvM Genus.

" I do profess I can engage
With noble, simple, and with sage.
Though young as yet, I've been so hurl'd
About what you would call the world,
That well I know it, yet 'tis true,
I can be very honest too.
— Of the good name which you demand,
I tell you — I've not one at hand.
Of friends, I once had ample store.
But those fair, prosp'rous days are o'er.
And I must mourn it to my cost
That friends are dead, and gone, and lost ;
But if to conscience 'tis referr'd.
My conscience says. Sir, take his word.
— Of character, though I have none.
Perhaps, Sir, I can purchase one :
I, from a corner of my coat,
May just pluck out a pretty note ;
Which, with a view to gain an end.
Might, in an urgent want, befriend.
Now, if to place me, you contrive, 1

Where I may have a chance to thrive ; ,-
I'll give this note, if I'm alive. j

It may be rather worth your while ;
Perhaps it may awake a smile."

Sharps'tght appear'd to look astray,
But still he took a glance that way.


" I'm not," he said, "to be beguil'd ; "
Though when he glanc'd that way, he sm'd'dy
And, turning to the other side.
In a calm, soften'd tone replied.


" Here money is not that way earn'd.
My reputation is concern'd ;
But still I can my duty do.
And strive to be a friend to you.
Sir JeffWy Gourmand you may suit ;
A Knight renown'd, of high repute,
As all who know his name can tell,
For being rich and living well ;
A gen'rous man, but full of whim,
And you may be the thing for him :
In such a way your case I'll mention
As shall awaken his attention.
And now, my worthy friend, I pray.
Mind well what I'm about to say :
Without a creature to refer
Or for good name or character,
And in a state which seems to be
Involv'd in awkward mystery ;
And I shall add, with your excuse
For the remark which I must use.
That either accident or nature
Has, on your back, plac'd such a feature.
That were you e'en my dearest friend,
I dare not such an one commend
To any lady worth a groat.
Unless to serve the dame for nought.
— Just turn around, and you may see
A Lady in deep scrutiny,
With a nice quizzing-glass in hand.
Glancing across a liv'ried band ;


And once a month she does appear

On this domestic errand here.

If ot a maid she wants the use,

Her woman comes to pick and chuse ;

But it a man, — she is so nice.

She comes herself to make the choice.

A widow rich, who gives high wages.

If they should please, whom she engages :

But he must be of such a size.

And look so well in her keen eyes,

That she scarce one in twenty sees

Fit to wear her rich liveries.

There's one who has a squinting eye —

I know full well she'll pass him by ;

On one poor rogue she'll turn her back

Because his frightful beard is black ;

Another will not eat her bread

Because his frizzled crop is red ;

These are too weak, — and those too strong,

And some an inch too short or long :

She'll take the best-made of the bunch.

But would be fainting at a hunch.

— Thus then, according to my plan,

Sir JeffWy Gourmand is the man ;

But to his questions pray reply

Without the veil of mystery :

Your story from your very youth.

If he should ask it — tell the truth ;

Your errors fail not to unfold —

In tellmg them be firm, be bold ;

While you your better virtues own.

E'en let your mischiefs all be known.

But let not folly blazen forth

Whate'er you have of conscious worth ;

Express the ill with down-cast eye,

And veil the good with modesty ;



Though, if you can with prudence poke
Into your tale a funny joke,
Fear not, 'tis what his humour loves,
As his own daily chit-chat proves ;
And while he does his bev'rage quaff,
At what he says — be sure you laugh.
But should you not his service suit,
He will not play the churlish brute ;
And if not gone too far astray.
May serve you in some other way.
Thus you must see I do my best —
To Fortune I shall leave the rest :
But now I see Sir JeJ^ry enter,
And I must leave you to your venture."

Sharps'ight then after humbly greeting
This huge man-mountain of good eating,
For a few minutes in his ear.
Told that which he alone could hear.
The Knight then cast a curious eye
On Johnny, who was standing by.
And just enquir'd from whence he came.
What was his age, and what his name ;
Whom he had serv'd, and why he left
The place of which he was bereft ?

Qu^ Genus.

" If, Sir, it were not thought too free,
If I might take the liberty,
I would not wish you here to wait
While I my strange condition state,
As it would take an hour or more.
My various story to explore ;
Tho' 'tis not such, that I should fear
The tale to tell or you to hear :

14 rill-: HISTORY OF

You, wlio will kind allowance make
For wants that press, and hearts that ache,
And passions that restraint disdain
^Vhen justice sues, and sues in vain ;
And 'tis to that tale I refer
For name, for age and character,
^Vhom I have serv'd, and what the scene
Where my frail manhood's years have been
And if you will but condescend
To my young hist'ry to attend,
And will not the fond hope deny me,
That you, good Sir, will take and try me,
And let my rude, misgotten shape
F^rom your observance to escape.
You will command, — I will obey ;
When you may see from day to day,
How tar. Sir, I may make pretence
To your good grace and confidence."

" Then be it so," the Knight replied,
" I trust I may be satisfied.
I'm told there's something droll about you,
But droll'ry will not make me scout you ;
Nor do I mind, my friend, the pack,
Which you now wear upon your back :
We're rather equal on that score —
Your's is behind, and mine's before ;
Nay, when of both I take a view.
Mine is the larger of the two."

Qujf. Genus, with a ready grace,
Lifted his hat to hide his face ;
But still he so arrang'd the screen
That his gay visage might be seen ;


Which seem'd to burst as from the hit
Of the fat Knight's spontaneous wit,
Who chuckled first, and then made known
His further will to laughing John.

Sir Jeffery.

" Be punctual ; — at the hour often
We will, to-morrow, meet again ;
When I will hear, without delay,
The whole which you have got to say :
But know, you will offend my feeling
If you should shuffle from plain dealing.
I'm serious now : — on that depends.
How far we may continue friends."

QvM Genus fail'd not, at the hour,
To pass Sir Je/f'ry's chamber door ;
Where, seated in a cushion'd chair
As large as some post-chaises are.
And though it may be strange to tell,
The Knight contriv'd to fill it well ;
He seem'd attentive to peruse •

The pages of the daily news :
When, with a look and with a loll.
As if he thought on something droll.
And in a sort of pleasant glee,
He thus commenc'd the colloquy. —

Sir Jeffery.

" First, I must ask to know your name.
Your parentage, and whence you came ;
And when these trifling things are past.
The master whom you liv'd with last."


QvjF. Genus.

•' Qv.f. Genus, is the name I bear."

Sir Jeffery.

" Qu.t Genus ? 'tis a name so rare,
It never met my ear or eye,
If I can trust my memory.
I mean the surname that you own,
By which your family is known :
Not what your sponsor's pedant hammer
Beat into use from Lilly's grammar.
I want your father's name." —

QvM Genus.

" 'Twere well !

If I that honour'd name could tell ;

I must suppose that such a creature

Was form'd in her own way, by Nature !

That I had parents must be true ;

A father and a mother too.

But who they were I never heard.

Nor has the secret yet appear'd :
1 They're known to Heaven, — but to me
I My birth's a perfect mystery :
i Though this I'm sure that I can tell —
I It was not worth a miracle."

Sir Jeffery.
" By whom, then, was Qvje Genus given ? "

QvM Genus.

" By one who is a saint in Heaven ;
If ever mortal beings go
To bliss above, from ills below :


This I believe, nay I would swear,
That such is his allotment there ;
And I would kiss the book I trow,
The holy book that tells me so.
A Grammar Title was his own, \

And therefore 'twas — he gave me one :
'Twas Doctor Syntax, and I'm proud
That 'tis to him the name I ow'd."

Sir Jeffery.

" I knew him not, but this I know,
What pleasure to his works I owe ;
And you will meet my partial whim —
Prove that you e'er belong'd to him.
Treasur'd within that curtain'd case.
His works possess a favour'd place ;
And if the binding aught can tell.
They show that I respect them well.
Go, take a volume down, and look —
Perhaps, my friend, you know the book."

QvjE Genus.

" I know it well, as you will see.
It tells my infant history :
This leaf will partly save the task
Of answ'ring what you're pleas'd to ask.
That little infant whom you see "j
In basket laid, — that, Sir, is me.
Now grown to sad maturity. J

— It was within an Inn of Court,
Where busy Lawyers plead and sport ;
Upon those stairs and thus enclos'd.
My new-born figure was expos'd.
Of mercy they had little share
Whose cruel purpose plac'd me there.
And left me to the Lawyer's care;


For, had th' Attorney been in town,
Who did those very chambers own,
I doubt what might have been my fate :
The thing was strange — the hour was late ;
The work-house might be distant far.
And dubious been the nursings there.
But one, perchance, possess'd the floor
When I was laid beside the door,
Who would have felt a crying sin
Had he not ta'en the stranger in.
When I this pictur'd figure view,
So innocent — so helpless too,
A smile's contending with a tear,
On seeing what I now appear :
A pretty figure for a casket, —
A little Falstaff in the basket."

Sir Jeffery.

" Further of this you need not tell,
I know the curious story well ;
At least as far as there appears
In what regards your infant years.
And all that did your fate betide.
Till your good friend the Doctor died.
— But now, — Of Masters name the last
W^hom you have serv'd for some time past."

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Online LibraryWilliam CombeThe history of Johnny Quæ Genus, the little foundling of the late Doctor Syntax → online text (page 1 of 13)